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NFL Draft

Mac Jones Has Made His Case To Be Patriots’ Week 1 Starter

  • The Draft Network
  • August 30, 2021
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Sunday night was the icing on top of a layered, acutely detailed display of quarterbacking for New England Patriots first-rounder Mac Jones, as he built upon what has been a preseason headlined with resounding reviews for the former Alabama signal-caller. Similar to actions he showed throughout his time in Tuscaloosa, Jones was extremely efficient and decisive against New York, displaying the stout pocket presence with zip on the rock we’ve seen throughout his slate of exhibition appearances.

Over three preseason games, Jones completed 69% of his throws for 389 yards and was sacked five times (four coming against the New York Giants). While the numbers are not comparable to those of presumed Week 1 veteran starter Cam Newton (14-21, 162 yards, 1 TD, 0 sacks)—who started each game this August but played significantly fewer snaps—it’s hard to folly the production of the first-year signal-caller in Jones, who if anything, proved he deserves a second look as head coach Bill Belichick begins to prep for the regular season. 

As he was against Washington in his professional debut, and in the 35-point rout of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jones showed extreme efficiency in captaining a Patriots offense to the tune of 156 yards through the air, completing 10 of his 14 passes to complete his night of work against the Giants.

This is special here from Jones, who uncorks a beautiful touch pass to the back shoulder of tight end Devin Asiasi. With pressure aplenty, Jones remained unfazed, staying tall and sturdy in his base, maneuvering up in the pocket to set up his dart to the Patriots tight end. What was even more impressive was his ball placement, as his critically acclaimed pinpoint accuracy was put on full display.

When Jones releases the football, Asiasi is blanketed, with zero throwing lane to the inside shoulder, which Jones immediately recognizes. The ball is placed toward Asiasi’s back shoulder, a throw in which Jones allows his tight end to turn and make a play on the football. This is stuff beyond his years. Gone are the days of 5-10 yards of space to loft footballs to the likes of DeVonta Smith and John Metchie III. As tight as throwing windows are on Sundays, to see Jones show off his ability to sneak footballs into spots that were originally covered is a masterful trait Belichick hopes Jones can build upon. 

This is about as pretty as it gets from the quarterback spot. Lined up in empty with five wideouts, this play call from New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels showcases Jones’ pre-snap ability to a T.

From the snap, Jones recognizes the Giants running zone across the field, which inside the red zone can present trouble due to the lack of space, but Jones executes his hookup to Isaiah Zuber with extreme precision and pocket savvy. From the onset of the play, Jones immediately shades his eyes to the right side of the field, holding the deep safety for as long as possible before sliding back to Zuber. By doing that, Jones allowed Zuber to clear the second-level defensive end in coverage, finding the soft spot for an easy pitch and catch for six before the safety could close on the football. It was a touchdown pass executed in the mind of Jones pre-snap, and everything Belichick and McDaniels could hope for out of their youthful signal-caller.

The deep bag of enticing traits Jones has shown in practice this summer—timing, rhythm, anticipation—were present once again in his preseason finale. With the preseason now complete, Jones has left an awfully tough decision to make on the plate of Belichick.

While Belichick reiterated the team has “a lot of decisions to make” under center in the coming days, by anyone’s account in New England, Jones showed more than enough to show he not only looks set to compete but has the necessary ability to masthead the Patriots’ offense if called upon to do so in the regular season. 

Time will tell who ultimately earns the nod from Belichick, but for Jones, his process remains the same.

“I’ll be ready when my time comes.”

Week 1 is just days away.

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